With less environmental control and increased variability in conditions, bigger buds outdoors don’t come easy
Growing cannabis is full of challenges, and the question on every outdoor grower’s mind is how to grow bigger buds outdoors. The answer lies in tireless pruning and training, coupled with quality soil, nutrient supplementation, and intimate knowledge of the local geography and conditions.
How to Grow Bigger Buds Outdoors: Pruning
Firstly, to many beginner growers, the idea of cutting away vegetative matter is counterintuitive. But, when growing cannabis, the main aim is to help the plant divert its precious resources into a smaller number of nodes—the point where a branch separates from the stalk. By harnessing the resources of the cannabis plant effectively, growers can obtain a higher density of more potent buds.
A study published by the Royal Society of London in Biological Sciences (2014) investigated how the defoliation of plants affects stored resources. The study revolved around the utilization of carbohydrate resources in conjunction with defoliation. The results suggest that faster-growing plants, like cannabis, have “more flexible allocation responses to defoliation and that growth strategy underpins post-defoliation and recovery strategies.”Atkinson, R. R., Burrell, M. M., Rose, K. E., Osborne, C. P., & Rees, M. (2014). The dynamics of recovery and growth: how defoliation affects stored resources. Proceedings. Biological sciences, … Continue reading
Pruning cannabis, via a technique known as selective defoliation, involves trimming away vegetative matter at the bottom that does not receive quality light. Without sufficient light, the lower-lying nodes of the cannabis plant can never develop buds that rival the density and potency of those that sit atop the canopy bathing in abundant light.
How Best to Trim Leaves To Grow Bigger Buds Outdoors?
To defoliate successfully, clip the larger leaves that fan out from stems that aren’t connected to bud sites. By clipping the leaves, growers also cut off the energy supply to a bud site and thus ensure that the plant doesn’t direct its precious energy toward developing suboptimal buds low down.
This form of selective defoliation also has the added advantage of allowing for enhanced airflow through the canopy. This ensures that plants are more thoroughly stressed by the moving air as well as ensuring the lower humidity levels necessary for later flowering.
It’s always best to prune during early flowering. This ensures minimal expenditure of energy into bud sites low down, while also making it easier for the plant to bounce back from the stress of the defoliation.
Training Cannabis Plants
By training a cannabis plant, growers help ensure that the plant forms numerous colas that absorb light evenly rather than one large cola that rises above the rest and then hogs the available light.
The process—also known as Low-Stress Training (LST)— involves tying the plant stem to a hole drilled on the side of the pot to tug it slightly to one side. Each day, the grower should move the wire progressively around the circumference of the pot to ensure adequate training of the plant, by extending it in every direction at small increments.
The result is a plant that extends evenly upward and maintains an even canopy utilizing the available light most efficiently.
The pre-flower phase is the best time to undertake training. As plants enter the flowering phase, the branches become stiffer and thus more challenging to train as well as being prone to snapping. A further advantage of carrying out the process earlier is a more efficient use of the resources. When left late in the pre-flowering phase, poor utilization of available light has already resulted in uneven growth.
While low-stress training is highly effective, it’s a timely process that requires real discipline from the grower.
“Scrogging” For Uniform Growth
For those with less time or discipline, another form of training involves a scrog. Scrog, which stands for “screen of green” is a net that, when placed over growing cannabis plants, helps maintain an even canopy and aids in maximum utilization of available light.
Such a net encourages cannabis plants to grow outward and expand horizontally as opposed to solely chasing the light above. With an effective scrog in place, growers should carry out selective defoliation lower down to ensure that the plants don’t divert precious resources into the suboptimal bud sites.
The Importance of Soil
For those who harbor dreams of potent, dense buds, nutrient-rich soil is a major factor. Growers should buy some potting soil, or, if they have the resources and means, create their own biologically alive soil.
There’s a lot going on in the soil. While nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (NPK) levels are important, so too are the trace mineral along with the protozoa, bacteria, fungi, earthworms, and nematodes that form the unique synergies that benefit both plant and soil health.
Nutrients For Maximum Yield
While soil trumps nutrient supplementation, the addition of essential nutrients can help maximize bud size during the grow cycle.
Blindly applying nutrients can result in burning, and growers chasing large potent buds must be strategic in their approach. Each growth phase has its own unique requirements. During the vegetative phase, plants require extra nitrogen and potassium. Next, during the flowering stage, potassium and phosphorous requirements take precedence over nitrogen.
Timing is Key Outdoors
With indoor lighting and precise environmental control, indoor cannabis often provides growers with a flexible method of growing cannabis. Outdoor cannabis, in many jurisdictions, is much less convenient. Those living in northern climes with short growing seasons need to be aware of cold snaps. These, and even heavy seasonal rains, can wreak havoc on any outdoor cannabis grow. Growers with plants intended for the outdoors can start them indoors and transplant them once they are sure the spring frost has passed. Overexposure to cold weather is one sure way to ensure poor yield, or worse yet, no yield at all!
Outdoor Protection From Animals and Pests
Outdoor cannabis plants are a prime target for animals. What should those living in an area where squirrels and deer may be attracted to a grow do? A solid fence around the plants is the best hope to protect them in this case.
Like indoor grows, insect pests can also wreak havoc on outdoor cannabis plants. Insects are an unhealthy stress on the plant. Essentially, dealing with the insects takes away from the energy that the plant can divert to bud sites. This decreases potential yields. Many natural and holistic methods involving essential oils can help deter insect pests, and keep outdoor cannabis plants pest-free.
Outdoor Cannabis – The Unseen benefits
For many, the guarantee of bigger buds in controlled indoor conditions prevents them from experimenting in the great outdoors. Lastly, while indoor grows certainly make it easier to achieve higher yields and larger buds, a study published by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Energy Policy (2012) suggested that this convenience comes at a high environmental cost.
For this study, researchers analyzed the carbon footprint of indoor cannabis production. They estimated that producing one kilogram of indoor cannabis results in 4,600 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions. Further, outdoor cannabis basking under the infinite and free light source of the sun has no such emissions. This then, may finally be the best way forward for those intent of figuring out how to grow bigger buds outdoors.Mills, Evan. (2012). The carbon footprint of indoor Cannabis production. Energy Policy. 46. 10.1016/j.enpol.2012.03.023.